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Recommended reading Imagination Stages: 3 to 5 years

“In play, a child stands taller than himself.” – Vygotsky

In the 19-24months section of this Parenting Resource there is a Supporting Information called Developing ImaginationOpens in new window. It might be worth a read as  a reminder and introduction to this topic.

Three and four year old tamariki build on this foundation to a more sophisticated level. Imaginative play is an important aspect of a child’s  life during this stage. Through pretend play they can try out any number of roles and situations. They are experimenting with how other people act and feel and think. They can practise at being other people and work out how society works. Through pretend play they practise their social skills and maybe work out how to deal with different situations.

Pretend play can strengthen a wide range of cognitive abilities; problem solving, memory, creativity, language, understanding emotions, controlling one’s behaviour and taking another’s perspective.

Children will play alone using their imagination, talking to dolls and animal toys, as they’ve heard others talk. They expand and experiment with their language and social skills.

Early learning services cater to children’s need for imaginative play by providing many and varied props. Clothes, furniture, costumes, household items, puppets, dolls, boxes, fabric, ,  kitchenware, writing materials and many more items can be found in the ‘Family Corner’. Here children play together, practising their new found skills on each other. Imaginative play with peers can help the development of problem solving and self-regulation skills. Not everyone can get exactly what they want when they want it. They have to learn to manage disappointments in order to let the play keep going.

Tamariki can use pretend play to act out experiences which have interested them. They may also use pretend play to work out things which may be scary or a mystery to them. At one level they may act out being bigger and stronger and more able to cope with uncomfortable and frightening situations. It may also help them to work out how to cope with difficulties in life. Children are more likely to act out their fears through play than to talk about them. Play is a safe way for children to explore their fears and feelings.

Our tamaiti has new and increased connections developing in their brain, especially in the vision centres. This helps in their ability to ‘see things in their mind’. Remember:

  • Upsetting events may lead to fears – real or imagined. Sometimes the use of imagination may help them get over the scary stuff. 
  • A child’s imagination can be a source of entertainment and amusement, or a matter for worry and concern. How whānau responds will depend on what the situation is.
  • Whānau can  ‘go along’ with the game, or comfort and reassure them.
  • When a tamaiti spends time in a fantasy world with imaginary friends, they are using creativity to experiment with different situations and feelings.
    • A child’s imaginary friends can give whānau a glimpse into their inner thoughts and wishes.

Further information:

  • How to raise an imaginative child in new window

  • Pretend play in new window

  • Free range kids in new window

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